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Evaluation of Determination of Handedness Using Standard Osteological Measurements

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 53 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2008 Pages: 777-781
Marie Elaine Danforth Ph.D.; Andrew Thompson B.A.
Date Published
July 2008
5 pages
This study tested the hypothesis and findings of studies that claim the arm bone will be larger on the side of dominant handedness, thus enabling a determination of whether a person is right-handed or left-handed.
The findings of the current study show that, with few exceptions, the right side of the skeleton was consistently larger for 137 individuals of known dominant handedness, regardless of whether they were right-handed or left-handed. In explaining these findings, the researchers concluded that environmental factors most likely are responsible for determining the size of arm bones, such that the activities of modern populations are not sufficiently correlated with hand dominance to cause consistent differences in skeletal size on the side of dominant handedness. Based on study results, the authors do not recommend determining dominant handedness by using standard arm-bone dimensions individually or in combination. The study sample consisted of 137 individuals from the Forensic Anthropology Data Bank and the William Bass Donated Skeletal Collection at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Dominant handedness was known for all of the individuals in the study sample. Attempting to improve upon the methodology of previous similar studies, which raised concerns about sample size or replicability of measurements, the current study analyzed patterns of side differences for standard length and transverse dimensions of the scapula, clavicle, humerus, ulna, and radius, as well as the diameter of the radial head. The measure of asymmetry reflected both the direction and the magnitude of any asymmetry present. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 25 references